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DeLauro Visits White House, Watches the President Sign Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into Law

January 29, 2009
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn. -3) issued the following statement on visiting the White House to witness President Barrack Obama signing into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

This morning President Obama made a powerful statement about his priorities for our nation when he signed his first piece of legislation into law. I was so proud and honored to stand with my colleagues beside the president as he put pen to paper, signed his name, and enacted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.

The East Room of the White House overflowed with old friends and colleagues, countless advocates and vocal champions who have spent years fighting to ensure women get equal pay for equal work. Everywhere I looked I saw smiles. We shared in the excitement of finally getting somewhere. At last, this is what progress feels like. Indeed, it was an historic occasion for our new president and a critical step toward ending gender-based pay discrimination. But what made this moment even more special was that we could share with it Lilly Ledbetter – a true warrior.

By now we all know Lilly Ledbetter’s story – for so many years, she was shortchanged by her employer. And years later, she was shortchanged again, by the Supreme Court ruling 5 to 4 against her gender discrimination claim narrowly -- drastically limiting women’s access to seek justice for pay discrimination based on gender.

The legislation -- now law -- that bears Lilly’s name restores prior law – that each paycheck resulting from a discriminatory pay decision would constitute a new violation of employment nondiscrimination law. Under prior law and under the bill, as long as a worker filed a charge within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck, the charge would be considered timely.

The President said it well, just before signing the bill: “Justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or a footnote in a casebook. It’s about how our laws affect the daily lives and daily realities of people: their ability to make a living, care for their families, achieve their goals.”

That is why we cannot stop here. We must continue to face gender discrimination head-on. Earlier this month, the House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act to stiffen penalties for employers who discriminate based on gender, protect employees from retaliation for sharing salary information, and establish a grant initiative to provide negotiation skills training programs for girls and women. I am confident the Senate will follow suit in giving teeth to current law and begin eliminating the systemic discrimination faced by women.

Today, President Obama with Lilly Ledbetter at his side began the process in earnest to ensure pay equity and help families gain the resources they need to give their children a better future.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Maatz/AAUW